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My parents moved our family to the US from Israel at the age of eight. Although both my parents had some basic proficiency in English my twin brother and I didn't even know the alphabet. We were in enrolled in third grade and became fluent English speakers within less than one year.
My parents outlook greatly affected our self-fulfilling prophecy in our learning.
1. My parents immediately began speaking in English to us whenever possible.
2. They set goals for us; specifically I received a pair of roller-skates when I advanced out of the ESL reading room and fully into class instruction. (This was the only ESL class my brother and I received; about forty-five minutes in language instruction each day.)
3. We wanted to be able to communicate with our classmates, as well as our teachers. No one in our upstate New York suburb school spoke Hebrew, so pandering to our needs was simply NOT an option. It was immersion in the most extreme sense.
Having a strong home base that supported change and assimilation was probably the strongest factor in our education. The other, and though I hate to say it, we were not physically type cast as "non-english" speakers. Specifically we are Caucasian. The outlook of our peers as well as our instructors was that we SHOULD be able to speak their language. There was never the stereotype against us that allowed others to box us in.
Also in my third grade class was an emigree from Laos. Her parents spoke no English, at home her family spoke their native language and as a result, she did not fare as well as my brother and I in her scholastics.
I think that addressing a child's whole environment: home as well as school is vital. In the same sense that children with parents that have the leisure to help them with school tend to get better grades, so do children whose parents are able to be part of the English speaking community (job, shopping...other activities) will be better able to assimilate into the language of the culture within which they are living.
If bringing up race and culture seems like poor taste I suggest that NOT bringing it up is in even worse.
Once we recognize that language change may also reflect cultural change we can take the steps to create ESL classes that are better formed to be all inclusive of home, cultural needs and societal needs. And who knows, maybe the test scores will come up as well.
posted 3 years, 4 months ago
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